By Eckehard Simon
Introduction: During the last three decades, Hildegard of Bingen – visionary, prophetess, abbess, correspondent, preacher, composer, and scientist – has become an icon of modern culture, outshining any other medieval author. Medievalists in impressive numbers, some motivated by the interest in women’s studies, have investigated Hildegard’s life and the amazingly diverse works she wrote and composed, extending to medical writings known as Physica and Causes and Cures. Hildegard wrote her own vita that her last secretary, Guibert of Gembloux, revised and finished after Hildegard died in 1179. After Pope Eugene III declared her an official church prophetess in 1148, people from emperor to troubled novice began writing letters to her, asking for advice and consolation. She answered most letters in a frank and supportive manner, showing her characteristic blend of informed self-assertion and humility. The edition of her correspondence, only recently completed, contains an amazing number of 390 letters. Together with her visionary and scientific works, these sources have enabled scholars to reconstruct Hildegard’s life in greater detail than that of any other twelfth-century author. I refer the reader to the full-length biographies published by Sabina Flanagan and Fiona Maddocks. They make for fascinating reading.